Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced it will no longer permit the sharing and accessing news copy on its platforms. This will take effect before Parliament legislates Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
"We have repeatedly shared that to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada," reads a statement from Meta.
The House of Commons passed a motion supporting the Senate amendments to the bill on Monday. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez accepted most of them.
"As promised, we are accepting amendments that ensure tech giants pay their fair share for the local, regional and national news content that they benefit from having on their platforms, and we are declining the amendments that undermine the objectives of the bill," he told The Globe and Mail in a statement.
Bill C-18 is expected to gain royal assent before Parliament breaks for its summer recess.
On June 1, Facebook restricted access to news on its platform for 1.1 million Canadians — a move considered by Rodriguez as "pure intimidation tactics." He pledged to consult Canadians on Bill C-18, so they can "express themselves on the matter."
When it passes Parliament, it will compel tech giants to pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue. Meta said earlier this month it is prepared to end news content access for Canadian users permanently.
Conservative heritage critic Rachael Thomas told the House the bill "kills newspapers" by prompting platforms to no longer share links to news.
She contends Bill C-18 "puts the government squarely in the middle of the newsroom," threatening the independence of the press.
Since 2019, Parliament has subsidized outlets deemed "qualified" by the Canada Revenue Agency, worth up to 25% of the annual payroll or $13,750 per newsroom employee. The $595 million bailout program expires on March 31, 2024.
Thomas also warned against giving the regulator, the CRTC, power to compel news organizations to hand over confidential information. However, the ten amendments to pass the Commons include imposing financial penalties for leaking confidential financial information.
Paul Deegan, CEO of News Media Canada, said Meta's move to censor Canadian users from viewing and sharing news a "kick in the shins."
On May 30, Deegan testified to the Senate Transport and Communications committee on Bill C-18, calling Meta's decision to 'unfriend' Canada by denying access to 'trusted news sources' is "irresponsible and tone deaf."
He warned that if Facebook permanently blocked news sharing, it would restrict public access to reliable information.
"What would be left on their platform? They're the plumbing of social media, and you have clean drinking water, which is news. But then you have all sorts of sewage: the misinformation and disinformation," he said.
"What this bill is about is ensuring that local news survives."
Big publishers have told a Senate committee currently studying the bill that they could lose millions of dollars should their content be blocked by Meta.
Rachel Curran, the head of public policy for Meta Canada, told senators the company gave media over 1.9 million clicks in Canada in the past year, or "free marketing worth more than $230 million."
Meta confirmed that news content changes will not otherwise impact Meta's products and services in Canada "to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and support their local communities."
"We will continue to combat misinformation and have built the largest global fact-checking network of any platform by partnering with more than 90 independent fact-checking organizations worldwide," said the tech giant.
"Fact-checking will continue [concerning] content that remains available in Canada."